The young activists who have pressed for stricter gun control since the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February have got under the right’s skin, even as the success of their broader push for legislative change remains uncertain.
The most infamous example is the controversy around Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host.
Ingraham apologized to Parkland survivor David Hogg last week after an earlier tweet seemed to gloat at his college rejections.
Actor Frank Stallone similarly apologized for a tweet in which he called Hogg a “coward” and a “rich little bitch.”
The anger directed at Hogg shows no signs of ebbing. Writing for Breitbart, James Delingpole on Sunday argued that Ingraham should not have apologized to the 17-year-old activist, whom he derided as “frankly sinister” and prone to "whiny entitlement."
Veterans of previous movements aimed at social change say that those kinds of furious reactions are signs that the protesters are gaining ground.
“If there was no opposition, a movement wouldn’t be needed. By definition a movement to change important things in society will get opposition,” said Larry Rubin, a veteran of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) campaigns to integrate the South in the 1960s.
Rubin cited the Ingraham attack on Hogg as part of a pattern of “ad hominem attacks,” comparable to how protesters working for racial equality during the civil rights struggle were labeled communists.
Other liberals praise the way in which Hogg and his fellow activists have harnessed social media and expanded it to additional causes — even as conservative say such efforts betray a broader ideological purpose than merely reducing gun violence.
On Monday morning, Hogg tweeted praise for the organizers of an LGBT parade in Vice President Pence’s hometown.
Another Parkland survivor, Alfonso Calderón, tweeted last week about speaking at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, D.C., which he characterized as “an underprivileged school which has experienced gun violence to an unimaginable degree.”
Emma González, another high-profile Parkland survivor, had more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter as of Monday afternoon. Hogg had more than 700,000.
Jim Manley, for many years a key aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (D-Nev.), said that the young age of the Parkland advocates “has some upsides and some downsides. But one of the real upsides is that they know how to use social media to drive certain Republicans absolutely bonkers.”
A particular focus for the protesters has been Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Fla.), who they have painted as a tool of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Price tags for $1.05 were widely distributed at the March for Our Lives, a demonstration for stricter gun control that organizers estimated drew 800,000 people onto Washington’s streets last month.
The $1.05 sum was the protesters’ calculation of the total amount the NRA had given to Rubio during his campaigns, divided by the total number of students in the state.
Rubio has sought a middle ground of sorts. In an interview with The Guardian last month, he praised the protesters for having “done more in five weeks on gun violence than has been done in 15 years.”
But in the same interview, he also suggested that expectations for legislative action should not get too high.
“The attitude of total victory — the idea that somehow some of us are going to come up here and get everything we want and just run over the other side — our system is just not set up for that,” he said.
Conservatives who hew to a line like Rubio’s express skepticism about the near-saturation media coverage of the Parkland survivors, especially those who advocate for liberal solutions.
A Parkland survivor with a more conservative view of the guns issue, Kyle Kashuv, has received considerable airtime from right-leaning outlets but has not grown to the same heights of political celebrity as González and Hogg.
The “incentive structure” in terms of mainstream media coverage is “pretty clearly tilted to the left,” GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak said.
Mackowiak took pains to point out that he recognized the trauma all the students experienced when a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
But he argued that it was clearly valid to criticize their policy prescriptions to deal with the broader issue of gun violence.
“I’m very sensitive to their horrific experiences, but they are really trying to make [the gun issue] a bumper sticker–type issue or an organizing campaign for the left, when it’s really far more complicated than that,” he said.
The protesters are also making an impact on the media landscape itself. After Ingraham tweeted about Hogg's college rejections, he sparked a campaign to put pressure on the corporations that run commercials during her Fox News show.
More than a dozen pulled out.
On Monday afternoon, however, Fox News reiterated its support for the embattled host.
“We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts,” Fox News co-president Jack Abernathy told the Los Angeles Times.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE’s presidency.